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How Much Does a Wedding Cost

Wedding Planning Tips

No one likes to talk about money and the budget when it comes to a wedding but for most couples, it is an important part of the planning process. And unfortunately, most couples also underestimate the wedding cost and end up going way over budget. According to The Knot, 54% of couples surveyed went over by an average of $7,100! 

We thought it would be helpful for our readers to see some real-life stats from weddings we did in and around the Twin Cities in 2023. While it is hard to show numbers for all parts of the wedding because there are so many variables, we did want to show the wedding cost from some of the areas all weddings need: food, beverages, and a venue. We won’t be naming actual venues and vendors or pricing for them, but we will tell you the per-person amount for each of these weddings for these areas and give you a little background on them. 

Some notes:

  • “Private Venue” means that it is not owned by the city or another public entity. In general, this venue’s main purpose is to be a wedding venue. 
  • Caterers will be broken out into three categories: Budget, Mid-Range, or High-End.

Couple 1 – Married June 2023

Guest Count – 162

Venue – Private Venue in St Paul, MN, ceremony on-site 

Catering – Budget, plated meal, passed appetizers

Bar – Managed by the venue, partially hosted by the couple, cash bar for most of the wedding

Dessert – Cookies from a national chain store

Late-Night Snack – Sandwiches from a national chain store

Per Guest Cost: $163.39

This couple had a decent budget and wanted their guests to have enough food but having high-end food was not a priority. They saved money by using a more budget caterer and doing inexpensive options for dessert and late-night snacks. They hosted the bar during cocktail hour and a limited number of signature drinks, but the rest of the night was a cash bar. They also ended up with a slightly lower guest count than anticipated. The wedding cost could have been more but not hosting a lot of alcohol was key here.

wedding-tables cape-minneapolis-wedding-cost
Photo by: Adam Kennedy Photography

Couple 2 – Married July 2023

Guest Count – 30

Venue – High-End Hotel in St Paul, ceremony at a church

Catering – Provided by the hotel, plated meal, appetizers

Bar – Managed by the hotel, fully hosted 

Dessert – Local bakery that did a small cake and dessert minis

No Late-Night Snack

Per Guest Cost: $445.10

Intimate and elegant was the name of the game for this wedding. The couple got married at a church and wanted to have their loved ones wined and dined and didn’t spare any expense to do so. We looked at several venues for this couple and settled on this one, even though they knew it would be tough to hit the minimum with their guest count. Their final total did include a service fee to make up for the part of the minimum they didn’t hit with food and beverage.

Photo by: Leah Fontaine Photography

Couple 3 – Married August 2023

Guest Count – 138

Venue – Museum in Minneapolis, ceremony on site 

Catering – Mid-Range, plated meal, appetizers 

Bar – Provided by the caterer, fully hosted by the couple

Dessert – Minis from an outside bakery

Late-Night Snack – Provided by the caterer

Per Guest Cost: $209.67

Having a fully hosted bar was an important element for this couple. They also loved the museum vibes and everything it had to offer, even if they had to spend a little more on it. This couple expected a higher wedding cost but their guest count dropped a bit and guests did not drink as much as estimated.

Photo by: Kelly Reeves Photography

Couple 4 – Anniversary Party August 2023

Guest Count – 97

Venue – Museum in Twin Cities Suburb

Catering – High-end, plated meal, appetizers

Bar – Provided by the caterer, fully hosted by the couple

Dessert – Provided by the caterer

Late-Night Snack – Provided by the caterer

Per Guest Cost: $334.29

This couple had a pretty simple wedding ten years ago so they wanted to go all out for their 10th Anniversary. Having it at a museum so guests could have fun things to do and look at was important and so was giving them all a nice meal and plenty to drink. Having the caterer do everything may have been a little more expensive, but it streamlined the process for all of us.

Photo by: Charnell Timms Photography

Couple 5 – Married October 2023

Guest Count – 226

Venue – Private Venue in downtown Minneapolis, additional space for cocktail hour rented, ceremony on site

Catering – Budget, buffet, appetizers

Bar – Bar service from the venue with BYOB alcohol, fully hosted for all guests, additional hosted bar during cocktail hour 

Dessert – Minis from an outside bakery 

Late-Night Snack – Pizzas ordered in

Per Guest Cost: $130.70

This couple knew they were going to have a larger guest count so having a space to hold them all was the most important, followed by being downtown so guests wouldn’t have to travel far from their hotels. They had a more budget buffet and appetizers which helped keep their wedding cost down but in hindsight, we should have had more food for guests as the buffet ran out of food right at the end. Guests devoured every last piece of dessert and pizza. Spending just a little more per guest would have helped. It should be noted that the only reason their per-guest cost was the lowest on this list (even though they had the highest guest count) was because of the budget caterer and the BYOB option. If they had gone with a mid-range caterer and/or had to pay catering prices for a fully hosted bar their per-guest cost would have likely been closer to $150+.

Photo by: Kaylah Hammer Photography

Couple 6 – Married October 2023

Guest Count – 135

Venue – Private Venue in Minneapolis

Catering – Mid-Range, plated meal, appetizers

Bar – Bar service from the venue, hosted most of the evening, changed to cash towards the end

Dessert – Provided by the caterer

Late-Night Snack – Provided by the caterer

Per Guest Count: $217.94

This couple loved their venue but realized quickly after booking there that the wedding cost was going to be more because of the more expensive venue. While they didn’t change anything to sacrifice the quality of their event, they spent quite a bit more than they had originally budgeted. This couple only had one attendant on each side which helped keep other expenses down and just did all the food through the caterer to make things simple. 

Photo by: Rachel Lahlum Photography

Couple 7 – Married October 2023

Guest Count – 76

Venue – Private Venue Outside of the Twin Cities

Catering – Budget caterer, taco buffet with store-bought dry snacks for appetizers

Bar – Provided by the caterer, a minimal amount of wine and beer hosted, cash for everything else

Dessert – Provided by a local bakery, tiered cake, and sheet cake

Late-Night Snack – Pizza service provided by the venue 

Per Guest Count: $171.64

The total budget for this wedding was around $20,000. Even though the per-guest cost was more than some of the others on this list with higher guest counts, they put the bulk of their budget into the venue, catering, and photography. We found many creative ways and vendors to help them have a lovely wedding but they made all the good decisions to make this happen, such as having a small guest count and knowing they could not have a fully hosted bar.

Photo by: Penny Photographics

So, what are the takeaways from these stats?

  1. While having a lower guest count is typically the best way to save money, Couple 2 proved that it doesn’t matter if you choose a high-end venue and caterer. Your per-person cost can still skyrocket. 
  2. Budget isn’t always better when it comes to food. Having a conversation with your caterer about how much food your guests will get is important. It might be worth the extra cost to ensure there is enough food for everyone. 
  3. The more expensive the venue, the higher your per-person cost will go up. This cost is a flat rate for most venues, whether you have 30 guests or 300. Before you fall in love with a venue, be sure to get quotes for catering and bar as those are more variable costs you can control. 
  4. How much alcohol you host will end up being a big factor in your overall wedding cost. Decide that ahead of time and put it into your budget early on so you have those numbers in place when deciding on other areas of the wedding.

Have more questions about wedding costs, budgeting, or where to go from here? Drop us a line and let us help you figure out if your budget is realistic or if we need to get creative!

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